Thursday, 17 July 2008

Marc-André Hamelin

This French-Canadian pianist came again to Cheltenham last week: for me and for many I've talked to, his recital has been the highlight of our Music Festival so far - as I was reminded when listening to the recorded broadcast on Radio 3. You can Listen Again to this till next Tuesday morning: go to this page. The slow movement of the Haydn F major sonata is still running through my head. My friend Jeremy Tyndall, whose views I respect, was sitting next to me: at the end, "The first movement of the Schubert," said he, "was far too slow - too much about architecture." I disagreed. Judge for yourself!

With such musical excellence, it's peevish to complain. But if you know me, you will not be surprised that I do, on two aesthetic counts. First, I loathe the Stygian gloom into which the Pittville Pump Room is plunged by the curtains being drawn. This problem seemed to have been cracked last year. There are volunteer helpers around: if there is a potential risk that people will walk past the windows during the performance, then why not post someone outside to redirect them? The interior of Cheltenham's most beautiful building looks so much better in daylight.

Secondly, the size of the catering marquee grows like Topsy. The picture I posted with my blog last week was taken at last year's Festival. At least then one could see some of the front of the Pump Room from Pittville Park, but this year it is impossible to walk into the Park during a concert interval without going through a tented city - which (with its ill-matched hoardings) completely dominates the view when walking up from the town centre. What a shame! I thought this was supposed to be a Festival of Music, not another Festival of Food & Drink.

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